As CD‑writers become more popular, so the need to label one‑off CDs more professionally grows, and a number of inexpensive labelling systems have emerged to meet that need. One such is Neato, a very simple manual system that enables self‑adhesive, ink jet/laser‑printable labels to be centred and stuck to the back of your disc accurately and easily.
Supplied as a boxed set, the basic Neato kit provides an alignment jig, 28 assorted plain colour labels (two per A4 sheet), a couple of inlay cards, one sheet of laser‑printable clear labels and a CD‑ROM containing printing templates and useful artwork. The software is compatible with both Mac and PC platforms, and templates are supplied in Quark Xpress, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop formats, though you can make your own with any graphics program of your choice, and if you test the printing alignment on photocopies of the pukka labels, you can perfect your work without wasting any labels. Incidentally, replacement labels work out at around 10p per disc, which is pretty cost‑effective. Each sheet includes two rectangular labels that can be stuck on the outside of jewel boxes if you don't want to make a complete inlay card.
The mechanical part of the system is ridiculously simple — there's a circular plastic base with a hole in it, and a hand‑held centring jig onto which the CD being labelled is placed. After printing, the label is peeled off the protective backing and placed face up on the base. Next, the conical end of the centring jig, onto which the disc has been threaded, is placed in the centre of the label. You then simply push down. Generally, this results in a perfectly fixed, properly centred label with no air bubbles, but I have found that the labels tend to curl pretty badly when they're peeled off the backing. This doesn't usually affect the labelling process, but in severe cases, it can affect the centring slightly. When the labels are properly applied, they're claimed to be sufficiently well balanced to be used with high‑speed CD‑ROM drives
Neato's system is very cheap, it's easy to use and the end result looks very professional. Replacement stationery is also sensibly priced, but the company do need to look at ways of making the labels curl less, and it would also be helpful to include templates for other common programs, such as Claris Works or Microsoft Office. Despite the minor niggles, though, this is a nice little system that makes your one‑off CDs look very professional indeed. Paul White